Canadas Premiers got a clear message yesterday as they gathered to discuss health care issues: privatizations got to go.
The premiers werent the only ones meeting in this southern resort town hundreds of activists converged to share knowledge and strategies before taking to the streets, with CUPE National President Paul Moist and Ontario President Sid Ryan among their ranks. [see photo CUPE on the march]
The Ontario Health Coalition, along with other community and labour organizations, convened a wildly successful Health Action Assembly that drew an overflow crowd. It was standing-room only as activists gathered to share information on the latest updates from across the country and plot strategies to take the struggle to defend public health care forward. [see photo Health Action Assembly strategy session]
Seniors groups were well represented and bolstered by reps from community coalitions and groups across the country such as the Council of Canadians and the BC Health Coalition. CUPE was out in force, as were other unions and labour reps, notably United Steelworkers and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
The teach-in led to action in the late afternoon. Activists lined up behind the famous Trojan Horse that symbolizes privatization in our health care system and marched to greet the premiers to their meeting. [see photo On the March for public health care]
Organizers expected that the crowd would be kept on the street and locked out of the grounds of the hotel where the leaders were meeting but the gates were open, and the crowd flowed into the parking lot and swelled outside the front doors of the stately Queens Landing Inn. [see photo Picketing outside the Queens Landing Inn]
People picketed and chanted for about an hour before peacefully dispersing. [see photo National President Paul Moist raises his voice against privatization]
It was a rare and welcome moment in recent protest history: no overt and threatening police presence, a sunny afternoon, and people actually feeling like their voices could be heard and their presence seen.
Groups vowed to take the fight to Ottawa in September, when Canadas Premiers and Territorial leaders are meeting with Prime Minister Martin to further talk about health care. The success of Martins minority government will be measured by how well it protects public health care in this country.
The battle for health care is being fought over privatization. Yesterday, hundreds of people from a range of backgrounds made their voices heard and their opposition to private health care is ramping up the pressure to keep it public.
The stage is set for Septembers Ottawa meetings.